Located in the Southwest of England spanning the river Avon, Bath is one of the oldest cities in the United Kingdom. Beautifully preserved to this day it was originally founded by the Romans based around a series of natural spring baths; the only ones in the country to this day. By the 18th century Bath was a spa town at the height of fashion and the grand Georgian terraces built at the time are still here to be admired today. Surrounded by the rolling English countryside Bath manages to combine its architectural and historical heritage with a modern and lively city centre, perhaps in part due to the fact that it is also home to many young students who attend the two local universities. There are countless pavement cafes, many traditional pubs, some of England’s finest restaurants, various yearly festivals including the International Music Festival and one of the countries’ leading provincial theatres the Theatre Royal. Only a two-hour drive from London (or a mere 90 minutes by train), Bath is a popular destination for day trips from all over he UK but there is plenty to do and see for longer stays.
Things to do
One of your first ports of call will probably be the Roman Baths, there’s quite a bit to see here and it is well organised with an excellent audio guide. The highlight is the King’s bath built around the city’s biggest hot spring. The adjacent Pump Room gives you the opportunity to try some warm spa water straight from its source as well as a restaurant offering lunch and traditional afternoon teas.
Nearby the magnificent Bath Abbey is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with a churchyard surrounded by 18th century buildings including the Roman Baths Museum which tells the fascinating story of the Georgian baths. From here wander up towards Queen Square, the birthplace of Bath’s Georgian architecture is to be found here and only a short walk away are the architecturally world famous Circus and Royal Crescent. The latter of which was built between 1767 and 1774, and at No 1 Royal Crescent visitors can catch a glimpse of authentic 18th century décor and lifestyle, it was a former home to amongst others the Duke of York, son of George III.
The city boasts many museums including the William Herschel Museum, former home to the distinguished brother and sister astronomers or the Museum of Costume, which tells the story of fashion over the last 400 years. Perhaps most famously The Jane Austen Centre, a homage to Bath’s best known resident, the period novelist who based several of her novels on life in Georgian Bath.
For something a bit different head to Sally Lunn’s on North Parade Passage, both a café and museum it is situated in Bath’s oldest house and named after the 17th century baker who created the famous Sally Lunn afternoon tea bun!
Bath is popular for shopping particularly for its numerous independent, smaller specialist shops which are complemented by many larger more commercial high street stores.
Lastly for an authentic local experience book yourself some tickets to watch the local Bath Rugby team (www.bathrugby.co.uk) in a match at their home ground by the River Avon just beyond the picturesque Pulteney Bridge, a must see attraction in itself.
The best and most enjoyable way to see Bath is by foot but wear comfortable shoes, as just like the surrounding countryside it is quite hilly. Alternatively one of the numerous bus tours, many of them on open top buses, can be a good way of orientating yourself, several of them offer a hop-on hop-off service with tickets valid for 24 hours. The local buses are run efficiently and you can buy tickets on boarding however this is only necessary when visiting an attraction on the outskirts (or perhaps to reach your accommodation) as the centre is fairly compact and partly pedestrianised.